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Neighborhoods Get Federal Help With Brownfields, Housing, Transport

WASHINGTON, DC, February 17, 2010 (ENS) – A new Office of Sustainable Communities is being created within the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to help communities take an integrated approach to making environmental, housing and transportation decisions.

The Office of Sustainable Communities aims to help create neighborhoods that offer good jobs, educational opportunities, safe and affordable homes and transportation options while minimizing their impact on the environment.

A street in Denver’s La Alma/South Lincoln Park neighborhood (Photo courtesy Denver Housing Authority)

At the outset, five communities will get planning and technical assistance to accomplish their sustainable redevelopment goals.

The Office of Sustainable Communities is an outgrowth of an eight-month long collaboration between the EPA, the Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Department of Transportation to help communities strategically align their environmental, transportation and housing investments.

Together, EPA, HUD, and DOT have selected for assistance five pilot sites across the country where brownfields, the need for public transit and the need for affordable housing converge.

The Pilot Technical Assistance Program for Sustainable Communities aims to help communities clean and reuse brownfield sites to provide new housing choices that will create jobs and new economic opportunities by providing planning and technical assistance.

The five sites selected for the Sustainable Communities Partnership Pilots are:

  1. The Fairmount Line in Boston, Massachusetts
    Organizations in the Boston area have cleaned up many brownfields along this commuter rail line, and the pilot program will build upon these successes by creating a transit-oriented development village on the site of a former brownfield.

    The community wants to clean up and redevelop additional brownfields without displacing current residents. The three federal agencies will assist with transit-oriented development planning to minimize displacement and develop affordable housing. Nonprofit housing providers, such as community development corporations, will be assisted to clean up and redevelop brownfield properties.

  2. The Smart Growth Redevelopment District in Indianapolis, Indiana
    The community here plans to redevelop brownfields for green infrastructure, urban agriculture, affordable housing, and new commercial development. The pilot will focus on two areas within the district – a former railyard that will be redeveloped to support urban agriculture, and two former maintenance facilities that will be redeveloped as affordable housing and permanent supportive housing units.
  3. The La Alma/South Lincoln Park neighborhood in Denver, Colorado
    The Denver Housing Authority and EPA have identified redevelopment opportunities in this community, one of Denver’s oldest neighborhoods.

    Technical assistance needs include: the design and construction of green buildings; stormwater control best management practices in traffic control corridors; green job generation through community gardens and fresh food markets; the promotion of energy efficiency, including renewable energy; the reuse and recycling of demolition materials; and promoting water efficient buildings and infrastructure.

    In the last few months, Regional, EPA, HUD and DOT representatives have been meeting to identify and leverage relevant programs. HUD has already committed $10 million in grants to this effort.

  4. The Riverfront Crossings District in Iowa City, Iowa
    Iowa City plans to redevelop brownfields in its Riverfront Crossing District to create a walkable, urban neighborhood close to a proposed light rail stop. This will provide affordable housing; ground floor retail and office space; pedestrian-oriented streetscapes; entertainment and recreational facilities; and public open space and trails along the Iowa River.

    HUD, DOT, and EPA will help the community develop a strategy to identify, clean up, and redevelop brownfields and revitalize an area within Iowa City affected by the disastrous flooding of 2008.

  5. The Westside Affordable Housing Transit-Oriented Development in National City, California
    National City, California has requested assistance in creating and implementing a sustainability plan and financial strategy for a 14-acre brownfield site that was once the state’s largest auto mall and site of heavy industrial and commercial services. Research has shown this community to be at risk, with a density of 389 polluters per square mile and more than 50 percent of adults with no health insurance.

    HUD, DOT, and EPA will assist the community in developing a plan to address the former brownfield and focus on green building and energy-efficient redevelopment plans that incorporate stormwater and flood control management. This project has received funding from HUD, DOT and the State of California.

The federal agencies are using this pilot program to encourage states to use their Clean Water State Revolving Fund loan programs to better support communities that adopt such sustainable strategies as transit-oriented, mixed-use development.

Two other federal pilot programs are also in the works. A new pilot grant program is designed to help three states – New York, Maryland and California – use their clean water funding programs to support efforts to make communities more sustainable.

And a new pilot program to clean up and redevelop contaminated brownfield sites, in coordination with communities’ efforts to develop public transportation and affordable housing will also receive assistance from the new Sustainable Communities Office.

View This Story On Eco–mmunity Map.